Sunday, March 8, 2015


The move back to Vancouver is still three weeks away. I’ve got plenty to do. This should be the time when I start to panic, but I’m not there yet. This is when it pays off being an experienced procrastinator. I’ll cram all that chaotic energy into the final week. Maybe even the last two or three days. I can pull all-nighters. It will be a nostalgic thing. University without exams at the end.

The easier things are in motion. Much of the furniture is gone or at least spoken for. Only the bed and the nightstand can join me in my new digs, a teensy condo that only looks roomy if you’re returning from five days in one of those pullout drawer hotels in Japan.

I know the move is absolutely necessary. It’s my only chance to find life again. Yes, that sounds melodramatic, but it is 100% true. The move comes under tacit orders from my family doctor, my psychologist and my psychiatrist. (Like a tennis pro, I have a team.)

Still, I can’t help but feel melancholy as I stare at the empty spaces in the house where I thought I’d live until I became an incontinent, drooling geezer, wheeled off to a nursing home. In late October, 2005, I’d stopped in a furniture store in Calgary, two hours before a flight home after a conference I attended for work. I spent $10,000 in a whirlwind of decision-making, the entire staff at my service as I pointed at tables and chairs and directed how particular items needed to be modified as part of the custom order.  It was a feeling of euphoria. Until then, I’d only owned a mattress and an IKEA chair. Hell, I’d spent my first two years in Vancouver sleeping on flattened cardboard in a spare bedroom in a friend of a friend’s townhouse. I’d never dared to be fussy.

Six weeks later, when the furniture arrived—sans two dining chairs that vanished en route from Quebec—I felt pride. The furniture made a statement. I’d finally made it on my own. A house. With real furniture. None of that discount stuff. Nothing temporary, with the intent of being replaced a decade later when the financial picture mysteriously brightened.

It’s jarring to think that the items wound up lasting only a decade after all. I’ve sold the items off to good homes, all people who work in the school district. Bargain prices. I can cash in for lattés instead of regular coffees for the next while. Back to simpler pleasures.

But there are other goodbyes. Not to people. I’ll still be working here and god knows I didn’t build up a significant social network. What enticed me in the first place was the natural beauty. Each jog and each bike ride now takes on special meaning. Last jog to the town marina. Last biking expedition toward the mill. It is in the outdoors where the greater memories are. This is where the dogs and I picked blackberries. (Yes, the dogs joined in. Lincoln was a natural, undeterred by the prickles. Hoover preferred to be hand fed.)

This is where I encountered the bear on the road and had to stop my bike. Here is where I saw up to a hundred dolphins. This is where I always dipped my front bike tire in the ocean, a ritual to honor my AIDS Project Los Angeles buddy who died twenty-three years ago. (The act recalled my maneuvering his wheelchair through the sand on his final birthday so he could dip his feet in the Pacific in Santa Barbara.) Here is where I chased the coyotes away from the alpacas. And this is where I’d sit against a log, let the later afternoon sun greet my face and feel a fleeting sense of inner peace.

There are a few more jaunts to be had. I’m thankful for that. Despite all the packing, the tossing and the errands left to do, I have the opportunity for full closure. This is not where I will grow old. The isolation did real damage. But there were moments of nourishment in the serenity.

The goodbye comes with mixed emotions. Has it been the time of my life? Hardly. Still, I feel a genuine sense of gratitude for the ways in which this stay enriched.



Jack Urquhart said...

Congratulations, James. I am glad for you—glad that you’re finally able to make this move. I made a similar move in 1998—from Boulder, CO, to San Francisco. A month to the day after arriving, I met my spouse—a man I liked immediately, but to whom I felt no strong initial attraction; more fool me. It’s going on 16 years now that we’ve been together. Funny the way things play out.
Here’s to adventures in living! I hope you find fun, and friendship, and romance (with very little drama). And love. Of course, love.

Rick Modien said...

RG, the sentiments you express in this post come across as bittersweet. I feel that tug in your heart right now.
On the one hand, I'm sorry you have to give up a whole way of life, and a time that obviously has meaning for you.
On the other hand, I'm glad you have a team looking after you, and that you're taking their advice. I agree with them. Moving back to the city is the right thing to do.
Of course, it's none of my business where you live and what you do. But I want you to know I hope you'll be very happy in your new life. And that you'll find love. You know I've wanted that for you for a long time.
(By the way, what a beautiful dining room suite. But it's only stuff, isn't it?)